It might not have been the perfect race for Yazid Zouaimia, but in the end it was the Centreville High senior runner who crossed the finish line first to win the boys’ 3200 race at last weekend’s Virginia State Indoor Track and Field Championships. The two-day postseason competition took place on Friday and Saturday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.
“The race didn’t unfold perfectly for me,” said Zouaimia, of the 3200.
But the talented Wildcat runner, who will run collegiately at Virginia Tech next school year, found a way to navigate his way through a pack of runners and take the lead on way to capturing the state crown in the event. His winning time was 9 minutes, 15.67 seconds, more than seven seconds ahead of second place finisher Christopher Foley, the Chantilly High senior who timed at 9:22.99. It was a terrific one-two state finish for the two outstanding local athletes.
Another Northern Region runner, Oakton’s Andrew McCullen, took fourth place in the 3200, giving the region three of the top four runners in that event.
“It was a real exciting feeling to be able to call myself a state champion,” said Zouaimia. “It’s not something I imagined being.”
Foley took the early lead while Zouaimia got boxed in behind some of the other runners, making it difficult for him to get into a good rhythm. But he was patient and soon began to get closer to the Chantilly runner.
“I had to work myself up to him,” he said. “When I first made my move, it was kind of slow but I kept going faster and faster. I took the lead and then never lost it.”
Zouaimia, a week earlier at the Northern Region Championships at George Mason University, had not competed in the 3200. Instead, he ran and won the 1000 race. But for states, Zouaimia elected to run the 3200 and not the 1000.
“My reason going into the meet [in choosing the 3200 instead of the 1000] was that I thought I had the best shot at winning the 3200,” he said. “But if I was going to run it I had to run it fresh.”
Zouaimia said he would likely have competed in both of the events if the 3200 had been scheduled to take place prior to the 1000 on the Saturday race day line-up card. But as it was, the 1000 race was set to go off first.
Zouaimia did not believe he could take part in the 1000 and still be fresh enough to win in the 3200.
On Friday night at states, Zouaimia was part of a Wildcats’ 4x800 relay team that took sixth place. That foursome was made up of Robert Kelly, Joey Hannah, Mattson Heiner and Zouaimia at anchor.
Zouaimia’s indoor season is still not completed. He will compete at the Nike Indoor Nationals showcase event the weekend of March 13 in Boston. After that, he will take several days off before jumping into the high school outdoor season.
While Zouaimia is excited about his future as a college runner in the ACC at Virginia Tech, his focus now is still on being a Centreville High student-athlete.
“I’m excited about college but I’m only thinking of high school now,” he said. “But I have goals for the future. The main thing is I just want to continue to get better and better.”
<b>IN THE TEAM STANDINGS AT STATES</b>, the Centreville boys were the second top team finisher from the Northern Region and finished tied for 12th place overall. Tenth place Lake Braddock was the only team from the Northern Region to finish better than Centreville (13 points), which finished in a four-way tie with Deep Run (Central Region), Grassfield (Chesapeake) and Stafford (Fredericksburg).
The Chantilly boys’ 4x800 team, the region champions, finished in 12th place at states. The Chargers’ team was made up of Matt Cumpian, Sean McGorty, Eric Rolfe and Sam Tucker. Mohamed Labor-Koroma, who had run the final leg in Chantilly’s first place 4x800 at regionals, did not run in the event at states. But Labor-Koroma did race in the boys’ 500 event, and excelled with a solid fifth place finish.
Centreville’s Paul Barbour finished a strong 10th in the boys’ long jump event.
<b>ON THE GIRLS’ SIDE</b> at states, Lake Braddock (11th), Robinson (12th) and West Springfield (13th) were the highest finishing teams from the Northern Region. Other Northern Region teams to finish in the top half of the 50 team field included West Potomac (18th) and McLean (tied for 22nd).
McLean’s Dominique Graham captured second place in the girls’ high jump with a mark of five feet, seven inches. Herndon’s Danielle Theberge tied for sixth in the same event.
Centreville’s Katie Bannon and Chantilly’s Nina Ullom tied for ninth place in the pole vault.
In the shot put, Westfield’s Kaylin Newman took sixth place.